Hi! I'm Jean Hsu. I'm a co-founder of Co Leadership and an engineering-manager-turned-leadership coach with over a decade worth of experience leading and managing teams at Google, Medium, and Pulse.
I remember a time when I really struggled with leadership.
I felt exhausted in the morning just looking at my calendar. Another 5-hour block of back-to-back meetings. I knew that keeping 1:1s were important, but sometimes I couldn't tell if they were making a difference at all.
I quickly scanned the codebase and opened up a few pull requests to make some minor improvements — these small changes gave me an immediate sense of productivity and relief. I had done some work that day.
I was a new lead for a small project, and I had been excited to take it on. Finally! I was being given an opportunity. But I soon felt overwhelmed from being pulled in so many directions.
Halfway through the sprint, we were still waiting on designs for core functionality. The product managers were still sneaking in hypothetical features. It felt impossible to line up meaningful work for a handful of engineers.
“We can't possibly ship without that.”
“We can't increase the scope without pushing out the launch date.”
“Why can't you just get the team to do it faster?”
“Oh, I had assumed we would ship it with this feature as well.”
“He told me your team was owning this other feature for the launch.”
Just when I thought we had everything under control, another miscommunication reared its ugly head.
The launch date was only a few days away. I didn't know how to get my team on the same page about the priorities, and I didn't feel like I could ask people to work faster or later. I didn't want to micro-manage my team either, and so I just hoped I had been clear enough about what needed to get done.
I ended staying up until 2am to finish everything myself and tie up all the loose ends.
We shipped the project, but I was exhausted. It wasn't super bad, but it wasn't the best either — and I knew it wasn't sustainable.
The worst part of all this was, I didn't even know if I was doing a good job.
I thought that my situation was unique to my team, career, and company. When I started sharing more through my writing, I started receiving emails from people saying I was describing their situation exactly.
And in conversations with Edmond Lau, a leadership coach who wrote the book The Effective Engineer, we realized that many engineering leaders we've coached or worked with experience the same problems.
That's why we co-founded Co Leadership and are crafting leadership experiences to help people to start leading from where they are.
We bring decades of experience building high-growth teams at companies including:
“I work with a team that is extremely diverse in their level of experience and communication styles and struggled to find a leadership style that serves them all well. The Co Leadership experience taught us better ways to communicate one-on-one and to align on values. By far the largest impact was that it empowered a new group of people at Medium to change and improve things within the organization.”
“I've spent a lot of time in various trainings and coaching sessions, and I learned things about communication in this workshop I didn't even learn at Harvard Business School. I felt Jean and Edmond did a great job of pulling out specific, high impact communication techniques and creating a safe environment to practice them in. Highly recommend going with a friend, co-worker, or co-founder.”
In the past few years, we've coached over a hundred engineering leaders across the tech industry. And we've discovered a common pattern that holds people back as they take on informal or formal leadership roles.
Up to a certain point, you can be successful by working hard and by being effective at your own tasks. But then as your work depends on more people, you hit what feels like an upper limit:
You get stuck. You see the potential that your team could be reaching, but you're not sure how to get there.
The things you try can all feel hit-or-miss.
You've talked to your manager about the problem, who seems to listen and sometimes gives helpful advice on how to lead the team. Other times, nothing comes out of it, and you don't know what to do next.
You're reading books — Radical Candor, The Manager's Path — and any blog posts on engineering leadership that you can get your hands on. But understanding something intellectually just isn't the same as internalizing it into your daily practice.
You've looked for mentors, but they all seem so busy. Sometimes you get a lucky break and get a coffee meeting. But you still don't know how to get them to invest in your success.
What if you could clearly communicate what was important in every project and get your team aligned behind those priorities?
What if you could quickly build a circle of trust on your team through short but impactful conversations?
What if you could boldly give feedback that lands with the person you share it with, and receive feedback without taking it personally?
What would be possible for you?
You'd stop wasting all your mental and emotional energy second guessing people's motivations — and feel equipped with the vocabulary and language to clear up any assumptions. With that saved energy, you'd focus on building a really great team and product.
You'd be able to develop and grow the engineers on the team with frequent feedback, knowing that people would see your good intentions and understand that the feedback is a gesture of trust.
You'd break out of what feels like a tug-of-war between competing priorities, knowing clearly what each stakeholder cares about the most.
Instead of trying to build consensus — which can oftentimes be elusive — you'd ensure that everyone feels heard and their inputs included before going forward with an aligned decision.
Your teammates would follow in your leadership, take ownership, and pitch in where they're most needed.
And at the end of the day, you'd look back at the progress the team is making, and be confident in knowing:
This is all possible for you.
Stop waiting. Start leading from where you are.
All it takes is building alignment.
What is building alignment?
Building alignment is explicitly designing your relationships around what's important — so that you can accelerate the building of trust, rather than wait for years for it to accumulate.
It's conversations that explicitly share mutual expectations, so that you can effectively manage up or down.
It's dialogue that invests in the infrastructure of your relationships, so that you can build peer and cross-functional support and turn co-workers into allies.
It's a powerful tool to make hard things easier and faster, letting you break through team friction, swiftly get people on the same page, and set shared goals that move the company forward — even when you don't have explicit authority.
“Edmond co-led a workshop for the Engineering Managers at Quip during a very formative period for our team. We learned useful skills for quickly getting to someone's true motivations and individual values and were immediately able to apply them to our day-to-day responsibilities as coaches. In a few hours, we built relationships and learned more about each other than I would have thought possible during the normal course of work. I can't recommend this experience enough!”
“This is not your typical training program! Others seem to be a long list of tactics divorced from real life. This workshop series shared useful tactics contextualized in self-awareness, with concrete actions our current and emerging engineering leaders could incorporate into their day-to-day work.”
In this full-day leadership experience, we teach a powerful framework grounded in our hundreds of hours of leadership coaching and training. In addition to our combined decades of experience in engineering roles just like yours, we've coached over a hundred ICs, tech leads, managers, directors, VPs, and CTOs.
And we've distilled the most important communication patterns we've identified from our years of trial-and-error in engineering and coaching into a one-day leadership experience.
You'll watch live demos of communication skills and observe their impact. You'll get hands-on practice and feedback on your own practice in a highly supportive learning environment. And you'll engage in discussions of how to apply the tools and skills in real-world nuanced scenarios.
You'll leave feeling empowered and confident to immediately apply what you learn in your day-to-day work.
“[The] workshop was phenomenal. Just phenomenal. Not one minute was wasted, and all the takeaways are being used in our company today. We spent time diving into coaching tactics and walked away with techniques that we could use in our daily routines...By the end of the workshop, we were closer as a team, more confident as a group, better listeners, and ready to have more meaningful conversations with our reports or with anyone who has a relationship with us.”
“Like playing a piano, the concepts taught in the class are simple...However, mastery of the concepts take practice and a good coach. Edmond and Jean are fantastic at helping us take our conversations to the next level.”
Through the experience, you'll also get access to a community of individuals in situations similar to yours. During the breaks and catered lunch, you'll get to connect with other technical and product leaders to share stories and experiences.
“The workshop had a lot of valuable insights about effective communication and some tools specifically for getting to the root of what motivates people. Techniques like asking powerful questions have helped me in interpersonal relationships. I can imagine how it could add value to my team at work—I want all of them to take it!”
“Edmond and Jean came across as well-planned, cohesive co-presenters. They both have the ability to break complex conversations to simple, first-principles based approach. It was an insightful day which provided the right amount of actionable tools for the attendees to build upon. I highly recommend them!”
For engineers, tech leads, managers, product managers, and others in tech.
San Francisco @ Calibrate: Thursday, September 26th, 2019 - 9:00AM - 4PM
$1,200 per attendee.
Even as an individual contributor, you're still working as part of a team, organization, or shared mission. And anytime you notice a gap of something that could be better, there is an opportunity to take initiative and to lead.
You learn leadership by leading, even when it's informal and without authority. In fact, most companies look for people who are already performing at the next level when it comes time for performance reviews and promotions. This leadership experience will give you the foundations to accelerate the growth of your leadership skills.
Do both! There are many great communication and leadership books out there — we've read lots — and they are useful for wrapping your head around how something should work theoretically. But we're sure you also remember reading books, thinking “This sounds useful,” only to never use the material again.
We focus on creating experiential programs because decades of research in learning have shown that the learning sticks best when you experience it. This is especially true when you experience the learning in a supportive environment where everyone else is practicing and reinforcing the learnings as well. And given limited time, why not invest in the learning that actually sticks?
We've coached hundreds of engineering leaders across the industry, and we hear this a lot. The feeling of your situation being unique is real — and indeed people's situations are different. But you'd also be surprised how many pervasive themes there are throughout the industry.
This limiting belief that no one else shares your situation is also incredibly isolating. It makes it harder to ask for help if you don't feel like anyone understands what you're going through. Many people struggle with imposter syndrome, not feeling good enough, not knowing whether they're doing a good job, in some shape or form. We've crafted this experience to have multiple layers of learnings so that it is extremely applicable to any leader in tech."
You've read through all the details of the leadership experience, and you know yourself and your situation best. Leadership can be scary, and the fear just comes from working on things you care about and people who are important to you. If your hesitation is because it is truly not the right time, we'll see you at a future event. If it feels like it's more a fear of stepping up to ask for what you want, we hope you find the courage to ask, and that we'll see you there.
One of the most valuable skills we can develop is advocating for ourselves. The most important thing is to ask. Show them this page. They can say no, there's no budget, but then they know you're interested in leadership training, and that may open up other possibilities and opportunities. Start the conversation with what you're hoping to get out of it that would be good for your team or company: “I'm looking to develop skills to have a greater impact on the company,” or “I want to learn how to more effectively work with my peers across the company so that we can make decisions faster.” One of our previous participants thought that leadership experience wasn't directly relevant to her work as an IC, but when she asked her manager, he just said, “Of course! Sign up right away.”
That's true! But your time is valuable. Why not attend the leadership experience that makes the best use of your time? We are trained leadership coaches, and we each have extensive experience being on and leading product and engineering teams.
One hard lesson we've learned is that if you keep doing the things you're doing, the best outcome is that you'll just get better at doing those same things. To truly accelerate your growth, you need to break out of your default pattern and invest in an immersive experience that shifts you into a different trajectory. We've designed our leadership experience to provide a step function in your growth.
It means that you'll be actively engaged and participating to really deepen the learning. This is not going to be a passive seminar where you're sitting back.
We'll have bathroom breaks and a lunch break where you can check your phone if you really need to. But out of respect for other participants, the rest of the day is a phone-free and laptop-free experience.
We'll be sad not to see you there, but you can give your ticket to another friend.
Let us know, and we'll keep you posted about future opportunities.